There are just nine days remaining in outgoing President Donald Trump’s term. However, after Trump’s supporters rioted at the U.S. Capitol in an insurrection last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has made clear she intends to spend those nine days trying to remove Trump from office ahead of president-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Five people died in Wednesday’s riots, including a Capitol police officer. Moments before violence erupted, Trump called on his supporters to walk to the Capitol building to “cheer on” the lawmakers who were attempting to overturn the results of the election on the unproven basis of widespread voter fraud.
In a Friday press conference, Pelosi made clear she blamed Trump for inciting the riots and called on Trump to tender his resignation or face the possibility of being removed from office.
In an interview with “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday, Pelosi reiterated that she felt Trump should face consequences for his actions.
“Sadly, the person that's running the Executive Branch is a deranged, unhinged, dangerous president of the United States,” Pelosi told reporter Lesley Stahl. “…he has done something so serious that there should be prosecution against him.”
So, what options remain in removing Trump from office? And can they be done in just over a week?
In speaking with “60 Minutes,” Pelosi said removing Trump through the 25th Amendment would be her preferred option — likely because of the speed in which Trump would be removed.
The 25th Amendment was ratified in 1967 in the wake of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The Amendment spells out the line succession in the event of the president’s death, but also contains a section where a president’s own cabinet could remove them if they deem the president to be “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”
In order to invoke the 25th Amendment, the vice president and a majority of the 16 members of the cabinet would need to vote for removal.
Following that vote, the president has four days to dispute. If they do, it would then require a vote from Congress to remove the president from office. A two-thirds majority in both chambers — 67 Senators and 290 House members — would have to vote in favor of removal in order to force the president to leave office.
While it is Pelosi’s preferred method for removal, it would require the help of some of Trump’s closest allies. Reports indicate that some cabinet members have held informal talks about invoking the 25th Amendment, though none have done so publicly. And while the relationship between Trump and Pence appears to be unsalvageable at this point, Pence has largely disappeared from the public stage since the riots, and it’s unclear if he would go along with such a plan.
On Monday, Houe Democrats called for unanimous consent to invoke the Raskin resolution, which would establish a committee to determine the president’s fitness for office and call on Pence to hold a cabinet vote. That consent was blocked by Republican objections, so a full House vote on the resolution will be taken tomororw.
Pelosi has warned that if Pence does not hold a vote within 24 hours of the passing of that resolution, she will introduce an article of impeachment.
Democratic lawmakers reportedly already have an article of impeachment against Trump already drawn up, which according to the Associated Press alleges him of inciting an insurrection. They will be ready to introduce them — and vote on them — later this week should Pence refuse to hold a cabinet vote regarding the 25th Amendment.
Politico reports that a vote on impeachment could take place on Wednesday. Should the House vote to impeach Trump, he would become the first president in U.S. history to be impeached twice.
Prior to Trump’s impeachment last year, the House held several weeks' worth of committee hearings to investigate whether he may have committed a “high crime or misdemeanor.” However, the Constitution does not require those hearings, and the House could conceivably choose to vote on impeachment at any time.
Should articles of impeachment be introduced, they would likely pass — only 50% of House members are needed to enact articles of impeachment, and Democrats currently control the chamber. Several Republican House members have also publicly advocated for Trump’s approval.
If articles of impeachment are passed, a trial would be held in the Senate. At the conclusion of a trial, two-thirds of Senators (67) would need to vote to convict to remove Trump from office.
Even with Democrats holding a slim majority, 17 Republicans would need to join with them in conviction — a tall task, given Trump’s continued popularity in the Republican party.
On top of that, it’s likely the Senate’s impeachment trial would extend beyond Trump’s term — something that has never happened before.
Legal experts are divided as to if a president can be convicted after leaving office. However, some experts believe an impeachment conviction could bar a public official from ever holding public office again — meaning Trump would be barred from running for president in 2024 if convicted.
What does the president-elect think?
While Trump’s removal from office remains a tall task, president-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in on Jan. 20.
And while he sidestepped questions about Trump’s removal in a Friday press conference, Biden indicated that he would just fine with taking control through the traditional Constitutionally-mandated means, saying that would be the “quickest” was to get Trump out of office.
He also said that Congress should be ready to consider legislation he planned to pass, including a new COVID-19 stimulus package — something the Senate would be unable to do if mired in an impeachment trial.